Have you needed and searched for a file or folder and discovered that you accidentally deleted it recently? Or worse, you have no idea what happened to the file/folder because, for some reason, it’s disappeared from your drive? These things hurt and can be frustrating, and that’s why I crafted this roundup of the best Windows data recovery software.
If you experience any sort of data loss, these Windows data recovery tools can bail you out by restoring your lost files and folders. To come up with this list, we tested for a few factors (continue reading to see how/what we tested) and concluded that Stellar Windows data recovery is the best all-round Windows data recovery software because it ticks the most boxes. However, if you are on a budget and looking for the data recovery software that presents the best value for money, then you can’t go wrong with Recuva. The third program reviewed here is R-Studio for Windows. It’s an excellent data recovery software with a minimalistic interface and innovative features that you will learn about in a minute.
Apart from these three recommended pieces of software, here, you will also find alternatives that, too, do a beautiful Windows file recovery job. To wrap it up, we explore free alternatives to the recommended software that you may also try out if you like.
What You Need to Know Up-Front about Windows Data Recovery
Data recovery is your last line of defense
Information saved in computer storages can get lost due to several factors, such as virus attacks, drive failure, accidental deletion, and even natural disasters. Therefore, if your data means much to you, it is advisable to take necessary measures to avoid total data loss. Some steps you can take include backing up data, having a reliable antimalware, and avoiding accidents. However, if it all fails and you lose your information, a Windows data recovery software can get it back for you.
How data recovery works
Deleting a file does not mean that you have removed the data from its location on the drive or storage; it only means that Windows has stopped acknowledging it. With time, however, as you save new files and folders, the “deleted” file gets overwritten. The time before the data is replaced presents a window of opportunity to get back the data, and you do that with the help of Windows file recovery tools.
When using Windows data recovery software, you often come across operating modes. Let’s have a rundown of the two most common modes and what they mean.
- Quick Scan:
This is a data scanning mode in which the software crawls the file structure of the drive to find information about files that were deleted recently. When it finds a file that fits the criteria, the software begins the Windows file recovery.
- Deep Scan:
This scanning mode operates fairly differently from the Quick Scan. It searches for leftover data on the drive. By leftover data, I mean the ones that were left by deleted files and Windows no longer tracks. After getting the file, it then categorizes them into the appropriate formats, such as PDF, Word, or PNG. A Deep scan may restore your lost files and folder, but the downside is that the files will be renamed, and the location lost.
Data Recovery Takes Time
You need only a few seconds to run a quick scan, but deep scans could take hours or days. Deep scans explore the source directory scanning for recoverable files. Typically, deep scans can find thousands of files, and as many recovery software rename your files, searching for a specific document takes time.
Are there Any Free Windows Data Recovery?
Unfortunately, there is no free Windows data recovery software that is worth your time. You can somehow use them for free, however. Most of the data recovery software have a free trial version that either allows you to recover limited data or only let you scan and preview the recoverable files.
Who Should (& Should Not) Get This?
Nobody wishes to ever need a Windows data recovery software, but then the plan is to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. The safest game plan is really to acquire the software before the need arises. Also, it is advisable to monitor the health of your hard drive to be warned of possible failures.
You do not have to shell out any cash yet, however. Almost all the Windows data recovery software have a free trial version. The good thing about this version is that knowing that not all files will be recoverable, you could buy the data recovery software, and it fails to restore your data. The trial version can scan your drive for free and show you the files and folders that are recoverable.
How We Tested and Picked
Windows file recovery software comes in different flavors. While they generally have similar capabilities and functionalities, they differ in usability and success rate, among other factors. Here are what we considered when picking software.
How easy is it to use the software?
Before going any further, I’ll clear something up. Data recovery can be performed using many, many tools, but these applications differ in difficulty. Here, we went for apps that make the entire recovery process stress free. Don’t get me wrong; the sophisticated tools are also excellent, but they were designed primarily for the techy guys and recovery specialists. They can recover more data because they are highly configurable.
Recovery features included
Quick and deep scans are not the only features of Windows file recovery tools. When selecting the ideal software, here are some other factors to look at:
- Disk imaging: The ability to create a backup of your recoverable data.
- Pause and resume scans: Allowing you to save the state and current progress of a scan to continue later.
- File previewing: Before recovering, it’s immensely helpful to preview the files.
- Bootable recovery disk: To prevent overwriting files, it’s better to boot from a recovery drive (C: )
- SMART reporting: Stands for Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology. It warns you of drive failures before they happen.
Best Choice: Stellar Windows Data Recovery
Stellar Windows Data Recovery is a useful tool for restoring lost data from any sort of storage medium. Of all the reasons why Stellar Windows Data Recovery trumps its competition, perhaps, a noticeable department is in the data loss situations for which it handles. This amazing data recovery software does not disappoint here; it can recover data lost from any scenario – accidentally deleted data, files lost due to virus attacks, missing partitions, formatted drive, and even permanently deleted Recycle Bin files and folders. Of course, all this power has a tradeoff – speed. Although not by much, Stellar Windows Data Recovery will run slower than some of the other tools in this roundup.
For even higher performance levels in recovering data from CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray discs, and HD DVDs, Stellar Recovery features smart algorithm not only to improve the page load speed but also to ensure that the file names and structures of the recovered items are unchanged. Some other vital features of this program are listed below:
How to use
Step 1. Launch this tool, and on the home interface, you will see two buttons: “Recover Data” and “Monitor Drive.” Click “Recover Data” and continue with the below steps.
Step 2. Next, you will be on the “Select What to Recover” screen. Select “Everything” if you do not want a specific file type. If you have, please choose it from this page and click “Next.”
Step 3. Choose the location from where the data got lost. For emptied Recycle Bin, select “Desktop.” For shift-deleted files, use “Choose Location” to browse for a specific directory.
Step 4. Click “Scan” for a quick scan of the selected location for the chosen file types. For more complete results, you can toggle the “Deep Scan” switch before hitting “Scan.” Otherwise, hit “Click here” beside “Deep Scan” if the software does not show the files you need.
Step 5. In the course of the scan, the program displays a live preview of the found files. You can preview them by hitting “Turn Off/On Preview.” To see the files, you either use the “File Type,” “Tree View,” or “Deleted List.” Here, we will use the “Deleted List” option.
Step 6. Finally, after scanning and previewing, it’s time to recover the files. From the results, choose all the files and click “Recover.” A dialog box will open; click “Browse” to find a destination folder. For features such as compression and filters, click “Advanced Settings” and then hit “Start Saving.”
Most Affordable: Recuva
At only $19.95, you can get the pro version of Recuva – Recuva professional – for a year. Despite its affordable price tag, Recuva packs top-class features and specs that will rival any Windows data recovery software. Recuva has a sophisticated deep scan mode that is almost guaranteed to find and recover a missing file or folder. Remember, at the beginning of this article, when we established that deleted files are not lost immediately until they get overwritten? Recuva has a unique feature that makes use of industry and military-standard deletion techniques with which you can force the system to delete and overwrite a file or folder securely.
To purchase Recuva, you have options of three versions – free Recuva, Professional, and the Professional Bundle. The free version allows you to scan for recoverable files and preview them, but you cannot recover your files with this edition; it is basically to confirm if your file can be restored. To perform a recovery, you need to purchase the Professional version for just $19.95. Recuva Professional supports advanced file recovery and recovery from virtual hard drives, but you only get to use it on one device. If you, however, want to use your license on as many as three devices, you can purchase the professional bundle for $29.95.
Features at a glance:
- Disk imaging: No
- Pause and resume scans: No
- Preview files: Yes
- Bootable recovery disk: No, but can run from an external storage
- SMART monitoring: No
How to use:
Step 1. Install and launch the program on a computer. From the welcome screen, click “Next.”
Step 2. Select the types of files you want to recover by checking the item on the list. Hit “Next” to continue.
Step 3. After choosing the file types, select the source location. To search a specific location, you can use the “Browse” button at the button.
Step 4. Hit “Start” to commence the quick scan by default. However, if it fails, you can attempt a deep scan.
Step 5. After the scanning, a list of all the deleted/recoverable files will be displayed. You can preview any by clicking on it.
Step 6. Choose a directory that is not the source directory to avoid overwriting. The location you select here is where the recovered files will be saved.
Step 7. To finally recover the files, check them and click the “Recover” button.
Also Great: R-Studio for Windows
R-Studio for Windows is another excellent solution that has a history of success. It is widely agreed to be one of the most powerful recovery software; there’s no argument here because it was developed primarily for experienced Windows file recovery technicians.
R-Studio is highly customizable to give the user a complete toolkit to allow you to take charge of any sort of data recovery. If you are not familiar with the in-depth workings of Windows file recovery, you may find R-Studio a little too technical to use, but the moment you get the hang of it, the recovery process becomes seamless.
This software being reviewed is probably the most complete Windows data recovery tool. Data Recovery Digest conducted an experiment sometime last year comparing the top seven recovery apps, and R-Studio was the undisputed winner. If you are not just looking to recover a few photos or files, but are a Windows file recovery expert, then R-Studio should be at the top of your list. At $49.99, it is considerably more expensive than Recuva, but that’s not the focus because R-Studio has more to offer and is well worth the money.
Features at a glance:
- Disk imaging: Yes
- Pause and resume scans: Yes
- Preview files: Yes, but after scanning.
- Bootable recovery disk: Yes
- SMART monitoring: Yes
How it works
For the price, most users are convinced that this piece of software is well worth every penny. If you have decided on going with R-Studio Recovery, the steps below show you how to use it to perform Windows data recovery.
Step 1. First, enumerate the files on the volume by double-clicking a logical disk which you can find on the “Drives” panel.
Step 2. Choose the files or folders which you want to recover. To select multiple items, press the SHIFT key, and click them.
Step 3. To commence the data recovery, hit “Recover” or “Recover Marked” if you selected multiple items.
Step 4. Finally, you may need to configure the recovery options. Here, you will set the folder where you want R-Studio to save the recovered files and folders.
In this roundup, the above three software are the most recommended – Stellar Windows data recovery, Recuva, and R-Studio. However, not everyone will like our recommendations. Therefore, we will present to you seven more data recovery software for Windows.
EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Professional
EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard is a user-friendly data recovery software for Windows that holds its own when it comes to power, not much on the features, however. For example, this tool lacks two essential features that improve the Windows file recovery experience. First, there is no disk imaging. While one can live without disk imaging, it is necessary to speed up recovery tasks and ensure that no data is lost. EaseUS also does not ship with a recovery disk; so, if you opt for EaseUs, bear in mind that you will have to create one yourself.
EaseUS also recovers data lost in all scenarios, and the Deep Scanning mode is also featured in this toolkit. With this scanning mode, EaseUS will almost certainly locate your missing files and folders. EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard Professional goes for $69.95. I feel EaseUS is tremendous for this price, but you have better options. If you like your interface intuitive and straightforward, and you do not really need super-fast recovery, then this data recovery software is ideal for you.
Features at a glance:
- Disk imaging: No
- Pause and resume scans: Yes
- Preview files: Yes
- Bootable recovery disk: Yes
- SMART monitoring: Yes
Remo Recover Windows
The first thing you will notice about Remo Recover Windows is its beautiful user interface. This is one of the few recovery tools in which the different versions show varying recovery capabilities. For example, it comes in the Basic, Media, and Per editions. With the Basic version, you do not get close to the maximum power of this data recovery software and won’t recover a great deal of data.
However, upgrade to a higher version, and you get much more value from this software. A downside to using Remo Recover is that in the course of the recovery, the files usually lose their names and get renamed as numbers. This makes it almost impossible to find a specific folder or file after the Windows file recovery process. Interestingly, the tests also found that this software recovers SD card data most efficiently, and so it was concluded that it does better with smaller-volume storages than larger ones.
Tenorshare UltData – Windows data recovery
UltData – Windows is a premium Windows file recovery tool that gives no data loss in the course of the operation. It also recovers data lost in any scenario, but the best thing about Tenorshare UltData is that it is built for regular phone users and not geeks.
Perhaps, the fact that this tool is targeted at novice tech users is the reason why the performance seemed toned down. While UltData is likely to help you recover your data, be aware that it can take more time than other options here. All in all, I recommend this software for users who simply want to get the job done, as well as people who prefer a well laid out user-interface.
Developed by iMyFone Technologies, AnyRecover is a slick one that surprisingly outperformed some of the more heralded names. When you purchase AnyRecover, you are not getting software that will blow you away with its performance; what you are downloading is a decent Windows data recovery tool that will get you back your lost files and folders, even if it does not do that in record time.
This program was developed for non-techy users, so you will find useful help tips while navigating and using it. The above sentence should not make you believe that AnyRecover is in any way an elementary Windows file recovery software as it comes highly recommended in the industry. AnyRecover recovers files lost in all scenarios equally, and its compatibility is notable.
Recoverit(Wondershare Data Recovery)
Recoverit, formerly called Wondershare Data Recovery, is an efficient utility, and being a Wondershare software gives it some more credibility. It also claims to recover missing data from all storages, but from the tests, Recoverit did not do really well. Keep in mind that the software tested in this roundup are all top-notch, and so, Recoverit not doing well is relative to the others. This means that Recoverit is a decent piece of software that should work for regular Windows data recovery, but it is not as powerful and efficient as other tools like Stellar, AnyRecover, or even UltData.
Data Rescue 5
This is a pleasant Recuva alternative that does its job in an okay manner – not too great, but not trash. Like the other Windows file recovery software, Data Rescue 5 performs satisfactorily for the quick scans, but then the deep scanning was off the mark compared to its competitors.
Data Rescue is popular in the industry, and for good reasons too. It has every major feature you will need from a Windows file recovery software, and using the application feels straightforward. At every step of the recovery process, there are clear guides to help you out. However, the main job of Windows data recovery tools is to restore lost data, and Data Rescue is not the most reliable in this regard. Do not expect Data Rescue to scan and find 100% of your lost data, and this is a huge concern.
In all of our tests, Data Rescue has the worst result, particularly the fact that it does not recover data lost in every scenario efficiently. Many checks also threw errors during the tests. Data Rescue performed poorly in some tests; the scans couldn’t find many deleted files. However, it worked satisfactorily in some tests, but it operated slowly. It’s tough to recommend this software.
MiniTool Power Data Recovery Free
MiniTool Power Data Recovery is another easy-to-use software that delivers results. Regarding the features, you can look at MiniTool as an affordable alternative to Recuva. Its recovery success rate is not impressive compared to Stellar or other apps. MiniTool is okay at recovery, but you will not find it tough to find a couple of others that do a better job.
We hope that this guide is informative enough to equip you with vital tools for your Windows file recovery operation. The information contained on this page is all you will really need to make a great decision on your choice of Windows data recovery software.